Local traditions and culture in Christchurch

  • Flower arrangement in front of the Cathedral.
    Flower arrangement in front of the...
    by Kakapo2
  • Installations in process.
    Installations in process.
    by Kakapo2
  • The Whanau with the Crier
    The Whanau with the Crier
    by fishandchips

Most Viewed Local Customs in Christchurch

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    Ellerslie Int. Flower Show Has Moved to Chch

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jan 18, 2012

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    The first Ellerslie International Flower Show in Christchurch took place in Hagley Park from 11 to 15 March 2009. But already before the start there were discussions if this is a good date, as flowers will not be at their best in late summer/early autumn LOL And Auckland has announced they will have a new show which will compete with Christchurch’s.

    Impressed by the success of the Chelsea Flower Show in London, the Ellerslie Flower Show had been set up in the Auckland suburb of Ellerslie in 1994 as a fundraiser. In 1998 it moved to the Regional Botanic Gardens in Manukau. And, as said, now to Christchurch. Of course, the Council thinks it is logic that the Garden City needs this flower show although their first plan to establish a garden show in Christchurch horribly failed. The only thing gained was that this plan killed another existing garden show in Hagley Park… Let’s see how the now really big event kicks off.

    More info on the Ellerslie International Flower Show on:

    http://www.ellerslieflowershow.co.nz/

    Update Feb 2010

    I had planned to visit the main show in Hagley Park last year but when I saw the queues in front of the gate I left and - then after reading letters to the editor in The Press about the chaos - did not not try it again.

    The 2011 flower show had to be cancelled due to the 6.3 earthquake on 22 February.

    The dates for this year: 7 to 11 March 2012.

    Flower arrangement in front of the Cathedral.
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    World Buskers Festival in January

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jan 18, 2012

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    Update 19 January 2012 - World Buskers Festival from 19 to 29 January 2012

    Due to the earthquakes Cathedral Square cannot be the main "stage" of the World Buskers Festival this year. The venues are spread around several places in the city and some suburbs. The main venue is the inflatable dome in Hagley Park (next to the Armagh Street entrance). Check out the link for schedule and venues.



    Every year one of the largest street performance festivals in world takes place in Christchurch for eleven days from mid to the end of January, this year (2012) is already the 19th time.

    The buskers who come from 40 countries show their talents and skills at various locations thoughout the central city and New Brighton.

    If you are in the central city at this time you just cannot miss them because the clowns, comedians and street performers are everywhere around Cathedral Square and Cashel Mall, and there is also a performance stage at the Arts Centre, Victoria Square and in New Brighton.

    In previous years it was easy to spot the performers because many free events took place during the day on Cathedral Square. Especially around lunch time hundreds of people attended the performances of the buskers. Now the new Re:Start container mall is one of the real inner-city hubs.

    Some of the buskers really do the most amazing things, like the guy who squeezed his normal looking body through a squash racket, a tennis racket and a toilet seat in a very entertaining way. Others do not delight me that much with their century-old jokes. But there is something for everyone, and if you do not like a performance you just walk to the next one.

    There are several indoor locations where performances take place in the evenings. For acts and schedules check out the festival website.

    No fixed entry fees, but donations are usual. That is the only money the buskers can earn. The events organisers pay their trips and accommodation but nothing else. But as this festival seems to be the best of its kind in the world everybody wants to perform and does not bother about making money.

    Before the quakes: buskers on Cathedral Square. Buskers Festival 2008.
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    Be proud of the Crusaders - Viva Red and Black!

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jan 18, 2012

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    If you love to wear red and black you are at the right place in Christchurch. Red and black are the colours of Canterbury, of the Canterbury (Lion) Brewery in St. Asaph Street – and of the Crusaders, OUR rugby team. It is a Christchurch tradition to be proud of the Crusaders, and this does not only show in people wearing red and black striped shirts and scarfs. Even the tramways wear red and black after a big win – plus the Crusaders flag on the roof.

    The last time it happened was on 1 June 2008 and the following days, the days after the Crusaders had won the Super 14 final. This proved they were still the best rugby (Union) team in the world.

    In this year’s final they beat the Waratahs (from Canberra) 20:12. And this is more than just winning a final. The most important thing you should know about sport in NZ is: We support two teams; first our national team, second, any team that plays against Australia. Only if Australia plays against England we support Australia.

    The Super 14 triumph was followed by the most terrible loss: Crusaders coach Robbie Deans left for Australia to become new Wallabies coach (national rugby team). Instead of giving him the All Blacks job we had to keep on living with this loser Graham Henry, and Robbie Deans will transform the Wallabies into the best team of the world. To be fair, it will not only be his effort. It is also the fact that an incredible lot of All Blacks players leave NZ for the sake of earning a lot of money in European clubs. Obviously nobody wants the best Aussies!? What is this?

    BTW Robbie Deans has not only written rugby history, winning five titles as the coach of the Crusaders and two as the manager. His name is also closely linked to the history of Christchurch. His ancestors were among the early settlers, buildings Dean’s Cottage, sitting next to Riccarton House in Dean’s (Riccarton) Bush – the only place where you still find original native bush in the middle of the city. For this historic reason the new stand in AMI Stadium (formerly Lancaster Park, Jade Stadium - what will be the next name?...) has been named Deans Stand shortly before Robbie's departure for Australia. You can be sure all rugby fans will only refer to it for honouring Robbie's success :-)

    Update 8 Feb 2010

    I admit, the Crusaders had no good season last year. But now Daniel Carter is back, and you will see... I hope LOL

    Update 19 Jan 2012

    In the meantime the All Blacks have finally won the Rugby World Cup - and the Crusaders wrote history despite not winning the Super 15 title last year. Due to the earthquakes which damaged AMI Stadium and liquefied the ground, they had to play all but the first home game away, one even in London (UK). They were on the road resp. on airplanes the whole season and still reached the final against the Reds in Queensland. In this final they finally ran out of steam. But still it was a phenonemal success and in fact one of the greatest achievements in the history of team sports.

    The Crusaders are well loved in Christchurch.

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    Chinese Lantern Festival on Victoria Square

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 7, 2010

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    Date for 2010:

    6 and 7 March (Sat/Sun)



    In 2008 they were terribly unlucky with this two day festival in early March. We had great weather all the time, and when the Chinese New Year’s celebrations started rain started pouring down on Christchurch, and the temperatures dropped.

    I had been on Victoria Square in the days leading up to the festival, and was absolutely fascinated by the colourful silk lanterns they installed in the park, along and in the river, and on the trees. There were big dragons and small ducks, an elephant, a giraffe, a zebra, and flowers floating on the Avon, figures in all shapes and sizes. I wanted to attend the festival, be even more fascinated by the illuminated lanterns, and enjoy the Chinese food. But then I preferred to stay at home and turn on the heater, and the second day of the festival was even cancelled. What a pity after all this preparation and the huge effort of installing the figures. So I was happy that I had walked to Victoria Square several times and seen most of the great lanterns that were more artworks than just lanterns. There were animals, flowers, trees, musicians, insects – and just lanterns ;-)

    As said, the Lantern Festival is part of the Chinese New Year’s celebration. This dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 221 AD). It is usually held on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. This year is the year of the rat. In modern times the Lantern Festival is also referred to as the Chinese Valentine’s Day because in former times it gave young people the rare chance of going out and meet.

    In Auckland they also have a Chinese Lantern Festival every year.

    This year (2010) in Auckland: 26 to 28 February (Fri - Sun), 5pm to 10.30pm daily, at Albert Park.

    Lantern musicians opposite Ferrier Fountain. Decoration along the Avon. Installations in process. A pig in the park. Some smaller animals.
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    Arts Festival Biennially in Winter

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 7, 2010

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    The Christchurch Arts Festival is held biennially in mid-winter. The last time it took place was in 2009. The next one is scheduled for 4 to 21 August 2011.

    The opening multimedia show is normally held on Cathedral Square, with a big dance and light show. And you cannot avoid to at least stumble over some of the art as Cathedral Square features as the heart of the Festival.

    The ONE WinterGarden with an ice skating rink has become part of the festival on Cathedral Square. In one year there was a spectacular flower pod sculpture - Snow Orchids - beside the Winter Garden that dwarved the Cathedral from a certain angle. The ONE WinterGarden was made up of an array of performance installations placed around three performance venues: the ChristChurch Cathedral, the Futuro and the TelstraClear Club.

    The Festival presents a broad programme of theatre, dance, music, opera, literary and visual arts, at many venues, right from Cathedral Square, to the Arts Centre, to Lyttelton. 70 to 80 % of the programme is New Zealand-sourced, the rest is international. From Cuban dance to Circus Oz, from Chamber Music to textile art exhibitions - you get it all.

    Check the official website to find out what interests you most.

    The Ice Dome they set up for the Arts Festival.
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    Festival of Flowers each year in February

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 7, 2010

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    The Festival of Flowers takes place every year in February and lasts 10 days. This year (2010) the dates are 19 February to 14 March.

    Christchurch prides itself as the Garden City, and apart from the work of the city gardeners who look after the Botanical Garden and the other parks most of the people here love gardening and are proud of their gardens. The festival is a celebration of this passion. A little thing I like a lot during this time are the tramways decorated by flower reiths and even hanging baskets.

    The Festival of Flowers boasts of a big selection of events, with the most popular feature of the Floral Carpet in the Cathedral, and Wearable Flowers Parades. Also on offer are garden tours to the parks and private gardens.

    Once I was most impressed with an exhibition at the Botanical Garden which did not even include real flowers but big flags with wonderful paintings of the Guardians of the Gardens, done by artist Jane Davenport, fantastic impressions of insects and lizards, the flags dancing in the wind.

    BTW The Ellerslie Garden Show has moved from Auckland to Christchurch but will keep its name. See extra tip.

    An exhibition of the Festival of Flowers. The Garden Guardians by artist Jane Davenport.
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    Summertime Festival: Classical Sparks in the Park

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 7, 2010

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    The Summertime Festival in Christchurch is a big fun time with lots of great and free activities and attractions, concerts and other entertainment. The highlight is "Classical Sparks" in Hagley Park which is a concert that often ends with Wagner's Ride Of The Valkyries and massive fireworks. Tens of thousands of people go there every year. It is like a pilgrimage to the park, everybody takes folding chairs or blankets to sit on, and a picnic basket with them.

    Normally "Classical Sparks" takes place on 5 February, the evening before Waitangi Day. In case of rain a day later.

    There are various performing artists. Two or three years ago, for example, you could see and hear Bic Runga and - for the classic part - Geoff Sewell, until not so long ago the tenor of Amici, and Elena played the classic rock violin.

    Although millions of people seem to attend this free event we went there once when the concert featured a great soprano named Deborah Wai Kapohe with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, and then NZ's legendary popstar Dave Dobbyn and his band. God, this man can sing! And supported by the orchestra it was magic.

    If you are not from NZ and Dave Dobbyn's name is not familiar to you, perhaps you have heard the song "Be mine tonight" - this is by Dave Dobbyn & the Dudes. My favourite song is a newer one with the title "Welcome Home" - just fantastic! In the NZ list of fame Dave Dobbyn comes right after the Finn Brothers Neil and Tim who formed the worldwide acknowledged bands Split Enz and Crowded House.

    The concert was scheduled for 8-10pm but finally the fireworks did not finish until 11pm, and in the following days parents who had come with children complained about the late fireworks. The next year they scheduled it for 8-10.30pm. So if you go there plan plenty of time and bring enough food and drink... (There are some food stalls though.) And absolutely bring something to sit on! If you are a tourist at least get a towel, or consider the purchase of a folding chair for $5 or 10...

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    Teddybear Picnic in the Park

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 7, 2010

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    Every year in summer - like in other cities in New Zealand - a teddybear picnic takes place in Christchurch. Until 2008 it was in Hagley Park.

    This pinic is a good opportunity for grown-ups to display their childish side without being regarded as childish. Over 70 year old teddies also join the party. Some people smuggle other toy animals than bears onto their blankets but probably it is only because those animals would get frustrated in the empty house ;-)

    Anyway, lots and lots of people join the picnic party.

    Nearly forgot to mention: It is a great event for children and their bears as well... ;-)

    No entry fees apply.

    Ah - and in 2007, then still in Hagley Park, a lady came to me and my bears and said she had just said to her daughter that she would leave her grand-children at home next year because they stress her too much, and that she would join the party with her bears only, like me, and have a nice and relaxed day, as the bears are so much easier to handle. I agreed and said my bears had never ever behaved badly on this special occasion LOL

    Update Feb 2010: Teddies had to move out of Hagley Park!

    In 2009 they shifted the Teddybear Picnic to Mona Vale's gardens because of the preparation of the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park.

    In 2010 - on Sunday, 7 March - it will be held at the Groynes (Johns Road, in the north of Christchurch) as part of the PSIS Children's Day.

    There will be bouncy entertainment, performing arts, boat rides, soap and stone carving, face painting, water activities, sports and much more.

    Time: 11am to 4pm.

    In case of rain the event will not take place.

    Lots of bears come together in Hagley Park.
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    Christchurch Heroes

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 7, 2010

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    Although those twelve bronze busts are perfectly executed - despite Margaret Mahy looking like a man, well, she might look like a man... - I find this display of Christchurch Heroes a bit odd.

    They are rather a new addition to the not always lucky hand Christchurch has with displays of street art, and were unveiled on 18 March 2009 on Worcester Boulevard in front of the Art Centre.

    The twelve heroes - all from the second half of the 20th century, were chosen by a steering group of former Christchurch Art Gallery Trust chairman Chris Brocket, Arts Foundation of New Zealand trustee Ros Burdon, Twelve Local Heroes charitable trust chairwoman Susan Wakefield, and Jim Wakefield. The architect Sir Miles Warren joined the steering group after he had been chosen as a hero.

    To me, for a start, someone is a hero when he saves other people's lives. Hubby added he does not consider someone a hero who is a convicted drink driver, as is the case with thr great children's book author Margaret Mahy. (She was convicted in July 2008 and banned from driving for six months.)

    At the time it was also a point of discussion if it is a great idea to display sculptures of people who are still alive, even if they are heroes.

    But for the records:

    The sculptor was Mark Whyte.

    The "heroes" displayed are:

    Elsie Locke, journalist and activist
    Bill Sutton, artist (those two were dead before the start of the project)
    Charles Luney, building industry leader
    Sir Robertson Stewart, industrialist
    Sir Angus Tait, electronics pioneer (they died after the start of the project)
    Dr Don Beaven, diabetes treatment pioneer
    Frank Dickson, former Canterbury Savings Bank chief executive
    Sir Richard Hadlee, former cricket great
    Diana, Lady Isaac, conservation, arts and architecture benefactor
    Sir Tipene O'Regan, Maori leader
    Sir Miles Warren, architect
    Margaret Mahy, children's books author

    Photo 2 gives the full view of the area where the bust are displayed. In the meantime real grass is growing there.

    Photo 3 shows Margaret Mahy's bust. Decide yourselves...

    Bronze heroes in front of the Arts Centre. Margaret Mahy.
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    Scared Scriptless = great Comedy Show

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 7, 2010

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    I nearly wondered if I should not post this under "Nightlife Tips" because it starts so late. What I know is that I do not want to extend my list of Things to Do because it is getting too long. I have to admit, I have not listed many interesting things already because it is just getting too much, mainly because of the lack of suitable categories. We would urgently need a category named "Arts and Culture", so tips about cinemas, theatres, galleries and other cultural events and attractions would not get lost in the typical To-Do lists. Anyway... As this is a local highlight I list it in Local Customs.

    Let me recommend you something "cultural" and very funny. Every Friday at 10pm - yes, really, 10pm! - they have the Scared Scriptless comedy show at the Court Theatre (at the Arts Centre, entrance on Worcester Bvd). The show is always different, as the Court Jesters only have a skeletal programme, and the spectators are heavily involved in the show, give the actors the key words and ideas, and they have to fully improvise. It really is hilarious.

    Tickets cost NZ$ 15 only.

    For bookings call (03) 963 0870
    or go to: www.courttheatre.org.nz

    The comedians also have a website: www.courtjesters.co.nz

    The other Court Jester in front of Court Theatre.
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    The Ballantynes Christmas Window

    by Kakapo2 Updated Feb 7, 2010

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    Although I have no children, will never get used to Christmas in summer and therefore do not get into the Christmas spirit, I never miss to go to the city and check out the Christmas Window at Ballantynes. This is Christchurch's finest department store, brilliantly located at the corner of Colombo Street and Cashel Mall (City Mall), right at the Bus Exchange.

    This relatively new tradition began in 2002, and since then Christchurch people have really got a soft spot for it. When the Window gets unveiled at the end of November, you can expect 2000 people flocking to the city centre, and many, many more in the following days and weeks.

    In the weeks leading up to the unveiling the store's display windows are covered in paper and veils. Many people are working on the displays. A guy named Chris Parker is the creative director of the annual Christmas Window. In a newspaper interview with the Press he said that the construction of the display takes seven to eight months. The fibreglass figures are made by hand by artist Caroline Trevella from Rangiora. The life-sized figures are animated, and audio recordings are added. The glass panes of the windows are also decorated and give them the feel of a gingerbread house that animates you to get a step closer and peek inside.

    The display is magic and lively, with acting and seemingly talking figures, taken straight from fairytales and Christmas stories. It takes you back into your childhood. Go to City Mall in December, and you will see many people - from small children to grannies - squeezing their noses against the windows and admire the display.

    They consider the nose- and fingerprints on the windows as a measure of success. The glass has to be cleaned several times a day.

    Get closer and squeeze your nose against the glass
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    Airport Penguins

    by ATXtraveler Written Feb 29, 2008

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    Since Christchurch is the official launching point to Antarctica, it would only be normal for the local mascot of the ChCh airport to be the penguin! This fun animal is there to greet you once you make it past customs, so make sure you get your camera ready for this quick snapshot!

    I think this penguin is actually a part of the International Antarctic Centre team, so he may not be here every time, but make sure to be on the look out for him anyway!

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    Show Week

    by fishandchips Updated Nov 11, 2007

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    The 2nd Tuesday in November is the annual horse race - the NZ Trotting Cup. The Friday of that week is Canterbury Anniversary Day (it's actually 16 December but who cares) aka Show Day. Both events are held at Addington Raceway.

    The Tuesday is the big racing day with many people more interested in their sexy new outfits than the horses. Friday is family day with many family picnics held in the car park and lots of kids running free.

    On top of this is the Agricultural & Pastoral (or A&P) show aka the Royal New Zealand Show. There is everything from carnival rides to animal shows and the opportunity to see the latest trade exhibits. On top of all this is a bit of music.

    Show Day is typically a hot sunny day (fingers crossed) and a day off work for all Cantabrians.

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    Housing New Zealand: Pigs have their own Homes

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jun 26, 2007

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    When you drive to the West Coast and look over the paddocks to your left, near West Melton, you will spot something typical for Mid and South Canterbury: Pigs have their own houses!

    By always staring to the left you will not miss a lot on your right apart from the odd cute lamb. West Melton is in the middle of farmland in the outskirts of Christchurch (and near a big prison...), quite a way before you enter the dramatic alpine landscapes of Porters and Arthur's Pass.

    Last time I even noticed that the pigs' houses have numbers. If this is to make mail delivery easier or to identify more clearly which pig will be the next in the slaugherhouse, is not clear to me. Anyway, it is rather a surprising sight.

    The houses provide shelter to the pigs in heat and cold, as they have no fleece which would protect them from the elements and sunburn.

    It is said that those free-range pigs are happy and friendly, and you do not have the stink of a normal pig-sty which you would smell for miles.

    The Selwyn district has more pigs than any other district in NZ. In 2006 there were 17 pig factory farms, as they call it, with a total number of 64,000 pigs.

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    Fundraising with Sausage Sizzles

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jan 5, 2007

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    New Zealanders are fundraising all the time, for schools, churches, privately funded surgeries, just everything. Garage sales, kids selling chocolate and cookies and quiz nights are just some of the activities to raise money for mostly important things that do not get funding by the state.

    On the weekends is the, I would call it: super sausage sizzle craze. In front of many supermarkets, shopping centres, DIY centres and the shops of the butcher who sponsors the sizzles, people like you and me are busy sizzling sausages and onions. It is the cheapest lunch you will get in the city. One sausage with onions and bread (which is a slice of untoasted toast-bread...) costs between NZ$1 and 1.50. This is still cheap even if you need two... ;-) Bon appetit!

    Kiwis love their sausages ;-)

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Christchurch Local Customs

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